ref·​er·​ence | \ ˈre-fərn(t)s How to pronounce reference (audio) , ˈre-f(ə-)rən(t)s \

Definition of reference

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : the act of referring or consulting
2 : a bearing on a matter : relation in reference to your recent letter
3 : something that refers: such as
b : something (such as a sign or indication) that refers a reader or consulter to another source of information (such as a book or passage)
c : consultation of sources of information
4 : one referred to or consulted: such as
a : a person to whom inquiries as to character or ability can be made
b : a statement of the qualifications of a person seeking employment or appointment given by someone familiar with the person
c(1) : a source of information (such as a book or passage) to which a reader or consulter is referred
(2) : a work (such as a dictionary or encyclopedia) containing useful facts or information



Definition of reference (Entry 2 of 3)

: used or usable for reference especially : constituting a standard for measuring or constructing


referenced; referencing

Definition of reference (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to supply with references
b : to cite in or as a reference
2 : to put in a form (such as a table) adapted to easy reference

Synonyms for reference

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of reference in a Sentence

Noun references to an earlier event The numbers were calculated by reference to the most recent census. Reference to a map will make the position clear. She listed her former teacher as a reference when she applied for the job. Her former teacher gave her a reference when she applied for the job. Her teacher gave her a letter of reference. Adjective a list of reference materials Verb The book references many other authors who have written on this topic. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The hosts asked about media coverage of him and Garrison made a reference to the interview. John Tuohy, The Indianapolis Star, 5 May 2022 Whatley made no reference to Snellville police that his daughter was in the car, Manley said. Minyvonne Burke, NBC News, 5 May 2022 Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, during a public portion of the proceeding, briefly outlined the panel's mission but made no specific reference to the former president. Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, 2 May 2022 And while Dickinson made no reference to his potential draft stock as an influential factor — all signs pointed toward him being a late second-round pick at best — that was undoubtedly an important part of the equation. Michael Cohen, Detroit Free Press, 27 Apr. 2022 Cosmopolitan magazine even made reference to the infamous Fyre Festival. Steve Baltin, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 The Facebook series made brief reference to her husband Will Smith's Oscars slap at the top of the latest episode, but only on title cards. Marianne Garvey, CNN, 21 Apr. 2022 Strong’s Greene made reference to the growing number of wedge-issue anti-LGBT laws moving through state legislatures in battleground states. William Earl, Variety, 16 Apr. 2022 Speaking of Saget, Gottfried made reference to their famous turns in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats about the retelling of the world's filthiest joke. Lester Fabian Brathwaite,, 13 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective State officials regularly cross-reference voting records with BMV records, which list someone’s citizenship status on their driver’s license. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, 12 July 2021 This process sees them cross-reference lists of the dead from the Washington Department of Health and the Social Security Administration. Tim Gruver, Washington Examiner, 11 Dec. 2020 The access could help OFAC cross-reference information with other investigators, including those in the U.S. intelligence community, said Mr. Lorber, a former senior adviser to the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. Jack Hagel, WSJ, 7 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Work relationships matter Join any organization and you will be handed documents, manuals, playbooks, handbooks, standard operating procedures, and websites to reference. Dr. Ruth Gotian, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2022 This provides a look into the benefits and policies other employers are offering, and serves as a benchmark to reference when advocating for change within one's organization. Danielle Weisberg, Fortune, 23 Mar. 2022 The book was a project that Washington’s good friend Dwayne Piggi used to reference, often. Anne Nickoloff, cleveland, 2 Mar. 2022 But historical archives of consequential statements are crucial to creating an accurate record for journalists and historians to reference. Pam Segall, The New Republic, 22 Feb. 2022 This will help you fine tune who to reach out to and what to reference during conversations. Kathryn Vasel, CNN, 22 Apr. 2022 The video, directed by Pooneh Ghana, is ripe with visuals that seem to reference Ari Aster’s 2019 horror film Midsommar with the lush floral arrangements and formal outdoor dinner setting. Grace Ann Natanawan, SPIN, 20 Apr. 2022 The new song seems to reference these sticky dynamics while removing the target from her band members’ backs. ELLE, 8 Apr. 2022 The first person to reference a new suit makes up a silly name for it. Ben Orlin, Ars Technica, 6 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'reference.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of reference


1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1856, in the meaning defined above


1876, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for reference

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The first known use of reference was in 1579

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Dictionary Entries Near reference



reference book

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Statistics for reference

Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Reference.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for reference


ref·​er·​ence | \ ˈre-fə-rəns How to pronounce reference (audio) , ˈref-rəns \

Kids Definition of reference

1 : the act of looking at or in something for information Reference to a map will make our location clear.
2 : a relation to or concern with something I am writing in reference to your advertisement.
3 : the act or an instance of mentioning They made no references to my error.
4 : a work (as a dictionary) that contains useful information
5 : something that refers a reader to another source of information
6 : a person who can be asked for information about another person's character or ability
7 : a written statement about someone's character or ability


ref·​er·​ence | \ ˈref-(ə-)rən(t)s How to pronounce reference (audio) \

Medical Definition of reference

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of known potency and used as a standard in the biological assay of a sample of the same drug of unknown strength a dose of reference cod-liver oil


Medical Definition of reference (Entry 2 of 2)


ref·​er·​ence | \ ˈre-frəns, -fə-rəns How to pronounce reference (audio) \

Legal Definition of reference

1 : an act of referring specifically : mention or citation of one document (as a statute) in another a municipality may adopt by reference all or a part of this title Alaska Statutes — see also incorporate
2 : a referral especially to a legislative committee or master also : an order referring a matter to a master the extent to which any party is more responsible than other parties for the reference to a master Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 53(g)

More from Merriam-Webster on reference

Nglish: Translation of reference for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of reference for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about reference


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